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Whitehaven guilty plea welcomed, but company must learn a lesson

Lock the Gate Alliance and north west NSW farmers hope Whitehaven finally takes community concerns seriously after the company pleaded guilty to all 19 charges in the Land and Environment Court this morning, which were brought against it by the NSW Resources Regulator.

Whitehaven illegally bulldozed tracts of land to create unauthorised roads, failed to rehabilitate drill sites, and illegally drilled boreholes.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $1.1 million, and Boggabri Farmer Sally Hunter said she hoped the company would finally get the wake up call it needed to stop its destructive illegal behaviour in north west NSW.

“This is a big deal - Whitehaven has never faced a penalty of this magnitude before, and we desperately hope this bad corporate citizen and repeat offender learns its lesson.”

“We hope the Court recognises the significance of the offences and that Whitehaven receives fines that reflect the community’s absolute outrage over this company's illegal behaviour.

“Even more galling is the fact that Whitehaven continues to seek approvals for new expansions and new mines in the Namoi Valley. 

“Whitehaven has a terrible track record in the Namoi. It repeatedly outbid farmers for water during the height of the drought. Whitehaven has also been fined for allowing toxic blast fumes to drift over neighbouring properties, polluting air and water, illegally dumping waste, illegally clearing bushland, and committing worker safety breaches.

“This latest matter also makes it the sixth time Whitehaven has been taken to court over issues at its north west coal mines.

“Too often, large coal mining companies are given fines that barely amount to a slap on the wrist. 

“We sincerely hope the penalty fits the crime.

“Whitehaven bizarrely tried to avoid prosecution earlier this week, in part by offering to donate $50,000 to the mining industry’s propaganda arm, the NSW Minerals Council

“Thankfully the NSW Resources Regulator rejected Whitehaven’s strange proposal, and the company has now pleaded guilty to these serious offences. All eyes are now on the Land and Environment Court.”

The Court will hand down its penalties on December 16.

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